The Sermon At Benares

On seeing their old teacher approach, the five bhikkhus agreed

among themselves not to salute him, nor to address him as a

master, but by his name only. "For," so they said, "he has broken

his vow and has abandoned holiness. He is no bhikkhu but Gotama,

and Gotama has become a man who lives in abundance and indulges

in the pleasures of worldliness."

But when the Blessed One approached in a dignified manner, they

involuntarily rose from their seats and greeted him in spite of

their resolution. Still they called him by his name and addressed

him as "friend Gotama."

When they had thus received the Blessed One, he said: "Do not

call the Tathagata by his name nor address him as 'friend,' for

he is the Buddha, the Holy One. The Buddha looks with a kind

heart equally on all living beings, and they therefore call him

'Father.' To disrespect a father is wrong; to despise him, is


"The Tathagata," the Buddha continued, "does not seek salvation

in austerities, but neither does he for that reason indulge in

worldly pleasures, nor live in abundance. The Tathagata has found

the middle path.

"There are two extremes, O bhikkhus, which the man who has given

up the world ought not to follow--the habitual practice, on the

one hand, of self-indulgence which is unworthy, vain and fit only

for the worldly-minded--and the habitual practice, on the other

hand, of self-mortification, which is painful, useless and


"Neither abstinence from fish or flesh, nor going naked, nor

shaving the head, nor wearing matted hair, nor dressing in a

rough garment, nor covering oneself with dirt, nor sacrificing to

Agni, will cleanse a man who is not free from delusions.

"Reading the Vedas, making offerings to priests, or sacrifices to

the gods, self-mortification by heat or cold, and many such

penances performed for the sake of immortality, these do not

cleanse the man who is not free from delusions. 7

"Anger, drunkenness, obstinacy, bigotry, deception, envy,

self-praise, disparaging others, superciliousness and evil

intentions constitute uncleanness; not verily the eating of


"A middle path, O bhikkhus, avoiding the two extremes, has been

discovered by the Tathagata--a path which opens the eyes, and

bestows understanding, which leads to peace of mind, to the

higher wisdom, to full enlightenment, to Nirvana!

"What is that middle path, O bhikkhus, avoiding these two

extremes, discovered by the Tathagata--that path which opens the

eyes, and bestows understanding, which leads to peace of mind, to

the higher wisdom, to full enlightenment, to Nirvana?

"Let me teach you, O bhikkhus, the middle path, which keeps aloof

from both extremes. By suffering, the emaciated devotee produces

confusion and sickly thoughts in his mind. Mortification is not

conducive even to worldly knowledge; how much less to a triumph

over the senses!

"He who fills his lamp with water will not dispel the darkness,

and he who tries to light a fire with rotten wood will fail. And

how can any one be free from self by leading a wretched life, if

he does not succeed in quenching the fires of lust, if he still

hankers after either worldly or heavenly pleasures. But he in

whom self has become extinct is free from lust; he will desire

neither worldly nor heavenly pleasures, and the satisfaction of

his natural wants will not defile him. However, let him be

moderate, let him eat and drink according to the needs of the


"Sensuality is enervating; the self-indulgent man is a slave to

his passions, and pleasure-seeking is degrading and vulgar.

"But to satisfy the necessities of life is not evil. To keep the

body in good health is a duty, for otherwise we shall not be able

to trim the lamp of wisdom, and keep our mind strong and clear.

Water surrounds the lotus-flower, but does not wet its petals.

"This is the middle path, O bhikkhus, that keeps aloof from both


And the Blessed One spoke kindly to his disciples, pitying them

for their errors, and pointing out the uselessness of their

endeavors, and the ice of ill-will that chilled their hearts

melted away under the gentle warmth of the Master's persuasion.

Now the Blessed One set the wheel of the most excellent law

rolling, and he began to preach to the five bhikkhus, opening to

them the gate of immortality, and showing them the bliss of


The Buddha said:

"The spokes of the wheel are the rules of pure conduct: justice

is the uniformity of their length; wisdom is the tire; modesty

and thoughtfulness are the hub in which the immovable axle of

truth is fixed.

"He who recognizes the existence of suffering, its cause, its

remedy, and its cessation has fathomed the four noble truths. He

will walk in the right path.

"Right views will be the torch to light his way. Right

aspirations will be his guide. Right speech will be his

dwelling-place on the road. His gait will be straight, for it is

right behavior. His refreshments will be the right way of earning

his livelihood. Right efforts will be his steps: right thoughts

his breath; and right contemplation will give him the peace that

follows in his footprints.

"Now, this, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning suffering:

"Birth is attended with pain, decay is painful, disease is

painful, death is painful. Union with the unpleasant is painful,

painful is separation from the pleasant; and any craving that is

unsatisfied, that too is painful. In brief, bodily conditions

which spring from attachment are painful.

"This, then, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning suffering.

"Now this, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the origin

of suffering:

"Verily, it is that craving which causes the renewal of

existence, accompanied by sensual delight, seeking satisfaction

now here, now there, the craving for the gratification of the

passions, the craving for a future life, and the craving for

happiness in this life.

"This, then, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the origin

of suffering.

"Now this, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the

destruction of suffering:

"Verily, it is the destruction, in which no passion remains, of

this very thirst; it is the laying aside of, the being free from,

the dwelling no longer upon this thirst.

"This, then, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the

destruction of suffering.

"Now this, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the way

which leads to the destruction of sorrow. Verily! it is this

noble eightfold path; that is to say:

"Right views; right aspirations; right speech; right behavior;

right livelihood; right effort; right thoughts; and right


"This, then, O bhikkhus, is the noble truth concerning the

destruction of sorrow.

"By the practice of lovingkindness I have attained liberation of

heart, and thus I am assured that I shall never return in renewed

births. I have even now attained Nirvana.

And when the Blessed One had thus set the royal chariot-wheel of

truth rolling onward, a rapture thrilled through all the


The devas left their heavenly abodes to listen to the sweetness

of the truth; the saints that had parted from life crowded around

the great teacher to receive the glad tidings; even the animals

of the earth felt the bliss that rested upon the words of the

Tathagata: and all the creatures of the host of sentient beings,

gods, men, and beasts, hearing the message of deliverance,

received and understood it in their own language.

And when the doctrine was propounded, the venerable Kondanna, the

oldest one among the five bhikkhus, discerned the truth with his

mental eye, and he said: "Truly, O Buddha, our Lord, thou hast

found the truth!" Then the other bhikkhus too, joined him and

exclaimed: "Truly, thou art the Buddha, thou hast found the


And the devas and saints and all the good spirits of the departed

generations that had listened to the sermon of the Tathagata,

joyfully received the doctrine and shouted: "Truly, the Blessed

One has founded the kingdom of righteousness. The Blessed One has

moved the earth; he has set the wheel of Truth rolling, which by

no one in the universe, be he god or man, can ever be turned

back. The kingdom of Truth will be preached upon earth; it will

spread; and righteousness, good-will, and peace will reign among


The Schism The Sermon At Rajagaha facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail